Cal Poly baseball is off to its best start in three years. A 21-13 overall and 5-4 Big West record puts the team in third place in the Big West. The hot start is accompanied by a group of underclassmen providing key hits to bolster the Mustang office. At the head of that group are redshirt freshman Tommy Pluschkell and true freshman Nick Torres.
“The juniors and seniors helped prepare us for this,” Pluschkell said. “They have been great leaders. You want to perform well for these guys. The older guys helped to anchor the team, and the younger guys have just tried to perform well for them. Anyone can become the leader when we need them to, anyone can perform when we need them to.”
Pluschkell, a general engineering freshman, attended Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, Calif. During his time there, he helped capture two CIF titles for his team.
The recruiting process for Pluschkell was a bit unconventional though Pluschkell’s high GPA, accompanied by a high SAT score, drew recruiting from many high-end academic institutions, including MIT and several Division II schools.
Pluschkell originally had his mind set on attending UCLA, but he was weary about the future of his baseball career after being offered an uncertain walk-on spot.
Then an offer from Cal Poly arose, and he said he knew it was a school that would foster growth academically and athletically.
“Cal Poly has a great history,” Pluschkell said. “They have a great engineering program. They wanted me for baseball. I had a bunch of other schools set up, either great education-wise or athletics-wise, but I didn’t find a mixture between the two.”
San Luis Obispo sat right in the center of those two worlds. Pluschkell picked the Mustangs.
Now in his first year playing for Cal Poly, Pluschkell is hitting .400 with three doubles and seven RBIs. Prior to the season, the team held inter-squad scrimmages three times a week to prepare underclassmen for the increased difficulty of collegiate level pitching.
This difficulty is not holding them back, however. Pluschkell said this year’s team can beat anyone, as long as it brings intensity every game and remains consistent.
“Every game can be the difference between making a regional and not,” he said. “We need to keep that same focus, that same drive and that same dedication to make sure we pull out every game.”
Business administration freshman Nick Torres also said he believes the atmosphere of collegiate baseball helps to build a program based on wins.
“The coaching staff here is unbelievable,” he said. “They are great guys, we come out here to practice and we know that they are always out here to help make us better.”
Torres entered Cal Poly expecting to get a few mop-up innings during his freshman year, and hopefully, build himself up for success later on. Torres said he was pleasantly surprised when he found he would be in the mix, starting at designated hitter throughout the season.
“I was just trying to come in and be a role player,” Torres said. “Just do my part when I’m called upon, but it’s great. I love being able to go out there every game day and try to contribute.”
When Torres’ collegiate career is over he hopes to be more than just another name at Cal Poly.
“I want to be able to say I left my mark on the program,” he said. “If I get my chance to move on to the next level, then hopefully, I have done enough to have had an impact.”
Head coach Larry Lee said in a preseason interview that it is important the younger players establish themselves on the collegiate level early in the season, which Pluschkell and Torres have done.
“The sooner they can get acclimated to this level the better off we will be,” Lee said.